Tuesday, May 5
The weather is promising: mild temperatures, a cornflower blue sky adorned with wispy white clouds, a beautiful spring day. A good day for driving. By 10 am I’m rolling down my parent’s driveway, it’s a right turn from there to get to Yellowstone. The biggest journey starts with but a single step. Or turn.
The early miles fly by on smaller two lane highways. There’s no traffic to speak of on a weekday morning out in the country. Farmers are out plowing their fields in preparation for planting, and between fields the poplar trees are decked out with the bright green of new foliage.
Highway 73 meets up with I94, a road I’m going to become intimately familiar with since I’ll be on it from now into Montana.
Just across the Mississippi river at the Minnesota welcome center I stop for lunch, and spy a curious sign on the front door:
I look all around the rest area, but don’t spy the goose. Hopefully he didn’t meet an untimely end from handouts. A lady behind a counter inside the welcome center is giving information or directions to a man, otherwise the place is empty. It’s a nice looking place, and since I didn’t get a picture of the Minnesota sign on the interstate, might as well get a picture of this.
The driving through MN is as easy as Wisconsin. Hills are infrequent and mild, and I can set Bertha’s cruise control and relax. As always Bertha is handling the trailer well, and without Julie’s stuff the rear of the truck isn’t riding as low – but it still isn’t quite level. I’ll need to continue moving my belongings around inside the truck and trailer until I get it all balanced again.
Before long Sauk Centre is looming ahead. It’s where I planned to spend tonight, my allotted 297 miles are up. I pull into a rest stop just before town and look at my smartphone. It’s only 3:30, Minneapolis didn’t have much traffic and I made better time than expected. I also check my weather app. Nice today, rain tomorrow. I check the weather up in North Dakota: nice today, rain tomorrow. The wind has picked up during the afternoon, but it’s coming out of the SE and I’m heading NW, so it’s working in my favor.
That settles in then, as long as the weather is good I might as well make more time today since I’m not feeling tired. If the rain is heavy tomorrow, I won’t be making as good of time and will the tired of driving sooner.
At 6:30 pm, I pull into a Walmart in Fargo, ND, on the eastern most edge of the state. While I’m moving stuff around, a lady leans out of her truck window to admire Bertha and Cas, I wave at her while I unhook Cas’ electrical plug.
“I was just admiring your rig, that’s the setup I would like to have.” She says.
She also has a Dodge Dakota with a camper top on it, but it’s not as large as mine. Her trailer, currently at home, is a 1980’s something-or-other that she fixed up herself, I don’t catch the brand. “I’ve heard good things about those little fiberglass trailers.” “Yeah, it’s 16 years old and still in pretty good shape. It’s been my home for over two and a half years.”
“Wow, good for you!” She tells me her name is Liz, and we talk a little bit more. I tell her about my blog and that I’m heading for Yellowstone to work for the summer. “Sounds like a fun life!” We part ways and I read inside Cas while the sun sets over Walmart.
I sleep well.
Wednesday, May 6
I wake up to a gray but dry morning, and pick up bread and milk inside Walmart as quick as I can, it would be nice to get out of Fargo before the rain starts.
No such luck, as I turn out of the parking lot, it starts to drizzle.
Luckily, it’s a light rain that drains off of the road quickly and doesn’t slow travel. The temperature struggles to get into the 50’s, I doubt it’s going to get up to 70 as the forecast predicted.
This is my first time in North Dakota with Cas, the last time I came through here I was 1 4 and it was at the end of a long road trip, I hardly remember it. The land is flat and the grass is golden, trees are infrequent, but green.
I94 here looks good, no potholes or tar, but it doesn’t feel good.
Much if it is what I think are concrete slabs. In a passenger vehicle, it probably feels fine at high speed, but having that extra axle behind me me, when Cas’ wheels hit those cracks between slabs, it causes the trailer to shift a little, and that jars Bertha as the truck crosses the next crack. It’s a hard phenomenon to explain if you’ve never towed on a road like this before. It’s not wear and tear on the road, it’s just the way it was made. Sometimes when I’m on a road like this I can speed up or slow down a little and hitting the cracks at a different speed doesn’t cause as much jarring, but not this time. When stopping for lunch nothing inside Cas looks amiss, the bumps are not that great.
Brunswick comes and goes, that was going to be my stop for tonight but again though the rain is persistent, it’s not heavy.
I stop for gas in the afternoon during a brief lull in the rain, and find that this particular gas station has air, and they don’t charge for it, yay! Cas’s rear mounted spare tire is low on air, and I’ve been looking since I hit the road yesterday for a place to fill it up. I fill for a count of 4-5 seconds, then stick my tire gauge on to see what the new psi reading is, until it’s full. While I’m at it, I put a little air into the rest of Cas’s tires too, although they’re holding air well.
After Yellowstone is done, I’m going to have to get all the trailer tires replaced. The two currently on the trailer are high quality light truck tires meant for commercial use, but they’re seven years old now. Having those wheel covers on between trips to keep the sun off has prolonged their life I’m positive, but I’m finally starting to see small cracks in the sidewalls – nothing lasts forever.
Toward the western end of the state, the land changes. Hills become more common, and some of those hills are eroded, badlands! Before long I see signs for Teddy Roosevelt National Park. I contemplate stopping, but the rain is coming down too hard to get good pictures even if I did, and the wind has switched directions and is now coming from the NW, bringing colder air with it. I do what I can to get pictures and video from the road.
Driving conditions are getting worse. The wind is now blowing against me and the rain is coming in sheets, I94 is less well kept and I don’t always see the patches and bumps before I hit them. I won’t go too much farther tonight.
I spend the night at Bad Route Rest Area, just across the border in Montana. The low is 40, but with bundled up with enough blankets it’s still just fine for sleeping. Semis come and go in the night, but they don’t wake me.
Thursday, May 7
Montana, how exciting! The rain has given up, and the high clouds that remain do nothing except shield the sun.
I was expecting a lot of trees, and so far it’s been grasslands, not much different than North Dakota, except hillier. Not far into the state, the road crosses a broad river, decorated with more pretty badlands features, the Yellowstone River! The interstate continues following the course of the river, into and out of the valley it’s carved. Badlands features along the valley walls give way to harder stone as the miles roll by. When I stop for gas in Forsythe a bluff with sparse pine trees makes a nice backdrop.
As Billings looms closer and closer on the GPS, the pine trees become more numerous along the bluffs. I could go farther today, but I’m getting close relatively speaking to my goal. I can’t arrive before the 9th, so I make the decision to stop at a truck stop/McDonalds on the edge of town to work on this blog post and waste some time. I’ll stay somewhere in the Billings area tonight, and go a bit farther tomorrow. Not too much longer now!
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